Tom Izzo is working hard on the ‘18 class & the #1 player in the nation, WI PF Joey Hauser, is his top target!

Tom Izzo is working hard on the ‘18 class & the #1 player in the nation, WI PF Joey Hauser, is his top target!

The term “special talent” is thrown around in sports a lot, generally used to brand the best player at a specific position for a specific sport in a specific state.  But on extremely rare occasions, the word “transcendent” can be used to describe a recruit.  It’s a word that implies that his/her talent goes well beyond simply being a stellar athlete – a term saved for the player that is so unique and so rare that he/she has the capability to literally change the game.  They buck every trend, zig when you expect them to zag, and take even the highest of expectations and blow them out of the water.  The recruiting Class of 2018 has one of those transcendent players – a 6’8”, 210-pound power forward that shoots from the outside just as well as he plays down low.  He’s a 5-star recruit, he’s the number one power forward in the entire Midwest, and he’s one of the top recruits, if not the top recruit, in the nation.  His name is Joey Hauser.


Still just a junior in high school, Hauser already has 11 offers from some prestigious programs, including Michigan State.  Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Marquette, Iowa State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Northern Iowa and Bradley have all made him offers.  He also has interest from another big-name school you might have heard of…Duke.  You’ll hear his thoughts on many of those schools in a minute, but first let’s get to know this standout star from Stevens Point, Wisconsin.


In order to understand who Joey Hauser is, you have to begin with his family.  Joey and his older sister and brother (his brother Sam is currently a freshman on Marquette’s basketball team and his sister Nicki is currently a Senior Captain on the Southern Connecticut volleyball team) grew up around gyms because both of their parents coached various sports. His mom is also the Athletic Director.  It was instilled in Joey at a very early age to stay grounded, never getting too high or too low with his emotions, or ever letting success stop him from growing and learning.


“Being coachable is something that we really focus on because it doesn’t just help you on the court, or whatever sport you’re playing…it helps you in just being a good person.  Being coachable can help you all the time,” Joey told Spartan Nation in an exclusive interview when we traveled to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to talk to him earlier this week.


If you want to know just how coachable Hauser really is, all you have to do is ask Scott Anderson, his high school coach at Stevens Point Area High School.


“I know I’ve had to get after him a couple of times and he does take it,” Anderson said.  “He’s like any other kid – they don’t necessarily like it or say, ‘Boy Coach Anderson, can I have some more of that?’  But he also doesn’t talk back.  99 times out of 100 he responds in the right way and plays better and takes it to a new level.  I’m not trying to pick on him or any of his other teammates, but I know what’s there and I know how well he can play, and if he’s not at that point then I have to find ways to try to tweak that.  He’s always taken our coaching marvelously and I don’t anticipate that changing.”


As I mentioned before, Joey possesses the skill set of a shooting guard and a center combined.  On any given trip down the court, Hauser is a threat to shoot a jump shot, pass to one of his teammates, body-up a man down low in the paint, and even shoot from downtown.  There are players that would do just about anything to master even one of those skills!


“That inside-out ability is definitely one of his real strong suits,” Anderson explained.  “Not only inside-out, but able to cut, able to pass, and able to play off the dribble.  He’s just a very complete player.”


“There’s times when he’s feeling it from the perimeter, I have to remind him we still need to get some stuff in the low post,” Coach Anderson continued.  “It’s not that I want to take any part of your game away…he’s got SO much game, I want to make sure he uses it all the time.  When a guy’s got that much game, you want him to use it all.”


If you’re looking for a player comparison, you can find it in arguably the baddest of the 1980s Detroit Pistons’ “Motor City Bad Boys,” Bill Laimbeer.  At 6’11” and 245 pounds, Laimbeer was one of the biggest guys on the court and was a physical force down low, but could also shoot from behind the arc with the touch and finesse of his teammate Isiah Thomas.  He is smaller than the “Bad Boy” so he moves better, but his inside-outside game is eerily identical.


“I didn’t really watch him a ton, but I watched that [ESPN] 30-for-30 on the ‘Bad Boys,’ so I’ve seen a little bit,” Hauser said of Laimbeer.  “I knew that he could shoot, I knew that he was big and could go down low.  I guess that’s a pretty fair comparison.”


As talented as Joey already is, and make no mistake this kid is incredibly talented, he also understands that he’s not a finished product yet, even though his sights are always set on being complete.  His humility is refreshing.


“I think just being able to guard every position right now,” Joey said of the area of his game he would like to improve.  “I struggle guarding quicker guards, so that’s something I’ve got to work on; and then if I’m guarding a really big guy, I’ve got to be able to defend him down low.  I’ve just got to work on all-around defense.”


“I go back to the completeness,” Coach Anderson elaborated.  “He’s [Joey] so good in many different areas and he doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses, if any.  Are there places he has to get better?  Undoubtedly, and he knows that.  He’s gotta get stronger, he’s gotta get more complete defensively; he’s a real good defensive player, but he could get better in that way.  His whole game can keep expanding and flowering and flourishing as he continues to work, and I think the strength part will be a real important piece for him over the course of, not only the next year of high school, but then going into college and beyond.”


But what truly separates Joey Hauser from other players is not just his talent on the court, it’s the fact that he is the best player AND the hardest worker on the team.  Tom Izzo frequently says, ‘When the best players are the hardest workers, special things can happen,’ a statement that almost perfectly exemplifies Joey.


“That’s been a big part of our success - our best players are our hardest workers and they lead the way,” explained Anderson, whose basketball teams at Stevens Point Area High School have won three consecutive State Championships and five consecutive Conference Championships.  “I first learned it from the Marines – you learn it from above and you teach it below – and we really believe strongly that our best players have to set the tone and have to lead the way.  Joey was around two State Championship teams his freshman and sophomore years, and then we had a bunch of new guys this year, so he was the guy that knew how it was done and how we do things.  The early part of the year when he was hurt was tough for him to impart that wisdom and knowledge, but he was around our practices and I think he helped us to just keep that standard going within our program.  So Joey definitely deserves a lot of that credit.”


Much like his coach said, Hauser also admitted that the time he was hurt was difficult for him, but it allowed him to develop a leadership role in a different way.


“I really love basketball.  When I was injured, I struggled a little bit at the start.  I was kind of down on myself, but then I realized that it’s not going to help my team at all if I’m down on myself.  I’ve just gotta pick myself up and then pick them up and try to coach them, tell them what I’m seeing, and make sure I’m coming every single day and bringing my 100% effort, even if I can’t be on the court.”


“That’s a typical reaction from a kid – they want to be playing…they don’t want to be hurt,” Coach Anderson added.  “Sometimes they’ll pout and be down a little bit, and he went through some of those times.  But he also did a great job of being around our practices, being around our teams, being in our huddles, helping us kind of keep that thing going.  As hard as it was early in the year for him and our team, it ended up being a positive in that he wasn’t around in those first 11 games, so other kids had to come on, be playmakers and grow a little faster than they probably would have otherwise.  He helped with that process, just in a different way.”


This kind of leadership might sound familiar to Spartans’ fans – it’s exactly the way Miles Bridges tackled being out for seven games this season with a high left ankle sprain.  He didn’t sit on the corner of the bench and mope around, he played the role of “Assistant Coach” and used the time to help his teammates.


Speaking of Michigan State, now is a good time for Joey to elaborate on some of the schools that have made him an offer and/or shown interest in him.  Let’s start with MSU, a school Hauser visited not too long ago.  He was able to get a tour of the basketball facilities and take in a game at the Breslin Center where the crowd proceeded to chant his name.  He did admit that having the fans acknowledge him like that was “definitely kind of weird to think about, but it was super cool!”


As for his thoughts on the Breslin Center and the basketball facilities, he stated, “I think they’re pretty awesome.  Just the campus itself is really cool; it’s kind of like a city in its own and it’s a really awesome place; always seems like there’s a lot of positive energy around the place.  But the basketball facilities are really cool, and then they’ve got a new weight room coming in, so that’ll be cool.”


But when it comes to Michigan State basketball, we don’t usually think of the Breslin Center or anything else.  We think of Tom Izzo and rightfully so.  Joey raved about the man he’s admired for quite a long time.


“It’s kind of weird that you know him because you’ve appreciated him as a coach, and then he starts recruiting you and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is awesome!’  And then you finally meet him and he’s just such a great guy.  He’s obviously a great coach, but he’s easy to be around, he’s fun to communicate with, just picking his brain about basketball and other things like that.  He always likes to send funny texts and he always puts ‘Coach Izz’ at the bottom.”


Joey’s father, Dave Hauser, who has been a coach for most of his youngest son’s life, also appreciates the kind of guy Izzo is both on and off the court.


“It’s always nice to meet another Packers fan,” Dave joked to start.  “I don’t want to use the term ‘old-school’ – I think he’s more of a family-directed person.  He’s not just interested in a player on the court; it seems like he’s interested in everything that goes on in that player’s life because he realizes that he’s not going to function on the court if there’s something going on in the other 22 hours of the day that aren’t making him concentrate on what he needs to get done.”


“But one of the most impressive things that we’ve enjoyed about him [Izzo] is that there’s really no beating around the bush – it’s straight talk,” Dave continued.  “As a parent, you appreciate that because nobody wants to hope it turns out that way, and I feel like we know exactly how Joey’s going to be treated if he goes to Michigan State, if that’s the place he chooses to go.  Those are important things for us.”


Now that we’ve tackled the Michigan State side of things, let’s get Joey’s thoughts on some of the other schools that have made him an offer.


On Virginia [whose Head Coach, Tony Bennett, is also a Stevens Point, WI, native] – “They recruited my brother, and that was actually one of the final schools that he came down to, so I’ve known Coach Bennett for a while.  He’s a really great guy, too, just like Coach Izzo.  I get along with him really well.  He’s from Stevens Point, so it’s easy to get along with him.  They’re a program that’s been on the rise for the past couple of years, they’re a top program right now, and they’re in the ACC, which is one of the best conferences in the nation, if not the best.”


On Wisconsin – “I really like Wisconsin – I always liked Wisconsin growing up.  And Coach [Greg] Gard, ever since he took over the program halfway through the year [2015-2016] you could just see the change in the program and how much they’ve changed for the better.  He’s doing a really good job and I really like the way he coaches.  Obviously, he’s another guy that’s easy to talk to; give him a call, talk to him on the phone.  And he knows…“home state” – a lot of people expect you to go there, but he’s really not putting any pressure on me.  He knows I have to take my time with it, so he’s been really great throughout the recruiting process.”


On Marquette [where his older brother Sam is currently a freshman on the basketball team] – “I’ve known Marquette for a long time, too.  It was a program that, growing up, I didn’t really watch because I was a big Wisconsin fan, but I’ve really become fond of Marquette.  And now my brother’s playing there, so we’re going to watch as much as we can.  It’s really been fun to watch him develop because he can tell me what they do on a day-to-day basis and how much he really likes it.  And I can tell that he just loves Coach Wojo [Steve Wojciechowski] and the program.  I really like Marquette.  Coach Wojo is an extremely fun guy to be around, their whole staff actually, so I feel really comfortable going to Marquette or just being around their guys.”


On Iowa – “Coach [Fran] McCaffery – he first saw me when I was playing with the Iowa Barnstormers for AAU, so that’s where he first saw me and he offered me a scholarship.  And on my visit there, he showed me some highlights of guys I kind of reminded him of.  I can really see myself fitting into their program and their play style.  Coach McCaffery kind of lets his guys play without worrying a lot, so they don’t have to worry about taking this shot – he lets them play “free,” so I really like that about a program and a play style.  But he’s a really great guy and I’ve gotten to know him better just playing with the Iowa Barnstormers – he has a kid that plays a grade lower than me, so I’ve gotten to know them a lot better.”


And lastly, here are Joey’s thoughts on that prestigious program that has shown interest in him but hasn’t made him an offer yet…


On Duke – “Duke is the kind of program that sets the bar for all the other programs, so just to hear from them is really something cool.  They’ve kind of been a ‘dream school’ – every kid kind of dreams of going to Duke.  I’ve heard from them a little bit – last summer I heard from them and hopefully this summer I’ll hear from them more.  Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] is a legend in coaching.  Duke is Duke; there’s not a lot better than Duke.”


You can see Joey’s admiration for each and every one of those schools in different ways.  But there’s a reason why all of these schools have shown interest in him, and it’s been the common theme for Joey Hauser from the start.  He’s not just a 5-star talent on the court…he’s a 5-star human being every day of his life.


“To put Joey as 5-star, that’s all fine and dandy, but those numbers don’t really matter,” Dave Hauser said.  “If he goes about his business as a 5-star and he’s a responsible adult and goes and does his job without having to be prodded or motivated, that’s kind of 5-star.”


“Our kids have been given a lottery ticket…what they do with it is up to them,” Dave continued.  “This is a chance for them to maybe not have debt after college, or maybe have the inside track for a job when they’re done playing.  Make good relationships and be a good person and good things are going to happen to you.  You’re lucky to be here…take advantage of it!” You can easily see where Joey’s humility comes from.


And that’s how Joey operates on a daily basis, both in basketball and in life.  Raised by two 5-star human beings in his mother Stephanie and father Dave, it’s no wonder why the best basketball player in the country for 2018 is also among the best people.


Tom Izzo passes off his success and Hall of Fame career to anyone but himself, just like the Hausers do.  Dave and Stephanie have raised kids that are talented, humble, and terrific people.


“I understand the process is long, but I just keep wanting to be complete,” Joey admitted.  “I’m just going to keep working hard to get to that finished product.  I just want to keep improving.”


Tom Izzo says that some guys play basketball, some live basketball, and some LOVE basketball.  Simply put, Joey Hauser LOVES basketball.


“It really just brings joy to me.  If I’m having a bad day, I can just pick up a basketball or go outside on my driveway and just get some shots up to clear my mind.  I’ve been around it since I was little.  When I was little, I was kind of trying out some other sports, but once I started to realize I was good at basketball, I just fell in love with the game.”


Joey plans on making his decision anytime between this spring and the end of the summer, but what matters most is that he fits.  He’s not satisfied with himself just yet and always wants to get better. 


That passion, along with his talent, drive and work ethic, has become Joey’s calling card.  He possesses a skill set the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades.  He’s a prototypical “Spartan” and Tom Izzo-type player, and fits the Michigan State mold like a glove.  But wherever he decides to play college basketball, Hauser’s impact will be felt in a big way.  Get ready and buckle up…Joey Hauser’s journey is just beginning, and this is a ride you do not want to miss!

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